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10 Chicago theater shows to see in February

From musicals to new works, there’s plenty of variety among February’s most promising theater
The Total Bent
Photograph: Joe Mazza The Total Bent
By Alex Huntsberger |
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February is a short month but a busy one, and there’s no reason to hole up with Netflix. Dear Evan Hansen—the biggest show to hit town since Hamilton—is in Chicago for just four weeks. If you haven’t already snagged a ticket, well, good luck. There’s plenty more excitement to go around with the world premiere of Rebecca Gilman’s new play, Twilight Bowl, and local premieres from Dominique Morisseau (Pipeline) and Lucas Hnath (A Doll’s House, Part 2). If you’re willing to leave the city limits, local sensation Sydney Charles is playing iconic singer and activist Nina Simone at Northlight Theatre in Skokie. And if you missed Bilal Dardil’s The Man Who Was Thursday when it premiered 10 years ago, now’s your chance to catch it again. With the Polar Vortex behind us, you have no excuse to miss these shows.

February theater picks

Dear Evan Hansen
Photograph: Matthew Murphy
Theater, Musicals

Dear Evan Hansen

icon-location-pin James M. Nederlander Theatre, Loop
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The smash-hit Broadway sensation finally touches down in Chicago. With Tony-winning music from composers Benj Paul and Justin Paul, Dear Evan Hansen’s titular teen is just another lonely, socially awkward guy—until a classmate’s suicide grants him the popularity he’s always wanted. Too bad it’s all based on lie. This national touring production is only in town for a limited four-week engagement at the newly christened Nederlander Theatre, so get your tickets now.

Photograph: Patti Perez
Theater

Mike Pence Sex Dream

icon-location-pin The Den Theatre, Wicker Park
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Gary is keeping a big secret from his husband, Ben: Every night when he goes to bed, he's having intimate dreams about the vice president. Dan Giles new play, directed here in its world premiere by Hutch Pimentel, isn’t offering audiences a vacation from our current dystopia, but it is giving them a chance to laugh at it.

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Theater

The Man Who Was Thursday

icon-location-pin Lifeline Theatre, Rogers Park
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It’s hard not to look at The Man Who Was Thursday with suspicion. After all, how did a play about anarchist cults and government spies so perfectly attuned for 2019 manage to premiere all the way back in 2009? Were writer Bilal Dardil and director Jessica Hutchinson tipped off to some kind of vast Illuminati plan? And what of the fact that the two are now remounting Dardil’s rollicking G.K Chesterton adaptation at Lifeline Theatre? Do they know something we don’t? In order to solve this mystery, you’ll just to have see the show. Trust us: you won’t regret it.

Photograph: Joe Mazza
Theater

The Total Bent

icon-location-pin The Den Theatre, Wicker Park
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Stew’s autobiographical rock musical, Passing Strange, co-written with Heidi Rodewald, is a serious contender for Best Musical of the 21st Century (non-Hamilton division). Now the pair’s follow-up, The Total Bent, is making its Midwest debut at Haven Theatre. The storyline follows a young musician trying to escape the shadow of his famous gospel star father. This production is directed by Lili-Anne Brown, whose recent revival of Caroline, or Change earned raves across town, including five stars from us.

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Theater

Pipeline

icon-location-pin Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, Sheffield & DePaul
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Dominique Morisseau is one of the hottest playwrights in the country right now, and her beautiful play Pipeline—about a public school teacher, Nya, trying desperately to carve out a brighter future for her son—will leave you with zero doubt as to why. Cheryl Lynn Bruce directs for Victory Gardens.

Theater

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

icon-location-pin Writers Theatre, Suburbs
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A group of black jazz musicians gather to record sessions for singer Ma Rainey in 1920s Chicago. As technical difficulties mount, friendly banter turns to more pointed barbs and tensions spiral out of control. The play is one of August Wilson’s best, and in the hands of director Ron OJ Parson, it’s as sure a bet as any.

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Theater

A Doll’s House, Part 2

icon-location-pin Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Lincoln Park
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Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House famously ends with “the door slam heard ‘round the world,” when housewife Nora leaves her husband Torvald for good. Lucas Hnath’s Tony-nominated sequel, on the other hand, begins with a knock. Nora’s back. Sandra Marquez stars in this Chicago premiere from director Robin Witt at Steppenwolf.

Photograph: Chelsea Ross
Theater

Nina Simone: Four Women

icon-location-pin Northlight Theatre, North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, Skokie
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If you’re not yet familiar with local actress Sydney Charles, then her portrayal of singer/activist/icon Nina Simone is the perfect opportunity to acquaint yourself. Christina Ham’s play chronicles Simon’s political awakening, which led to her powerful Civil Rights anthems such as “Mississippi Goddam” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.”

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Theater

Act(s) of God

icon-location-pin Lookingglass Theatre, Magnificent Mile
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In this dark existential comedy from Kareem Bandealy, a traditional nuclear family receives a mysterious envelope informing them of a very special guest coming for dinner. As they scramble to welcome their cosmic visitor, things start to get just a wee bit absurd. Like any good dark comedy, this show is best suited for audience members who are 13 and up.

Theater

Twilight Bowl

icon-location-pin Goodman Theatre | Chicago, IL, Loop
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In this new world premiere from Rebecca Gilman, six women in a small-town Wisconsin bowling alley face the trials of adulthood and the consequences of the different paths they choose. Heather Chrisler stars as the college-bound Sam alongside Becca Savoy as Sam’s not-so-college-bound cousin Jaycee.

More to explore

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